Starting this year, ethnic Uzbek high school students in Kyrgyzstan will no longer be able to take final exams in their native language, with officials saying there is not enough demand to continue offering the test in Uzbek, Radio Free Europe writes.
Chynara Batyrakeyeva, an expert with the government agency that prepares the exams, told RFE that this year’s graduating class will be able to choose only between Kyrgyz- and Russian-language exams.
The Uzbek-language exam was scrapped after only 49 students opted to take it in 2014, the first year in which pupils had to fill out a special request form beforehand. That is a fraction of the 1,784 students who took the test in Uzbek in 2013, when no special request was necessary.
Ethnic Uzbeks make up almost 14 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s population of 5.6 million, and the debate over Uzbek-language education has become more fraught since the June 2010 clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks.
Most of the country’s Uzbeks live in the south, where Uzbek students could previously attend one of two colleges offering instruction in their native language. Both were closed down in 2010, with officials also citing the small number of students.
Although Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic Russian minority is about half the size of its Uzbek population, Russian is still widely used in higher education in the former Soviet republic.
This article was originally published by Transitions Online.